Local leaders say the idea of using Ohakea Air Force base as a Covid-19 managed isolation facility wouldn't work.
A new report released by Otago University suggests moving all managed isolation to a permanent facility that would be built on Ohakea Air Force base is a "no brainer."
The report, authored by Professors Nick Wilson and Michael Baker, states that building purpose-built facilities within the secure base would dramatically lower the risk of community spread as well as significantly reduce the cost associated with the current managed isolation scheme.
The report puts forward Ohakea as the perfect location due to the large runway capable of landing commercial jets, as well as its distance from major population centres.
As well as being isolated, the base is also fully locked down by military security, making it significantly more secure than "a hotel in a downtown city centre."
But Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie said the proposal would be logistically difficult.
"I think if you're going to put a quarantine facility at Ohakea you're going to have to close down the Air Force and ship them somewhere else," McKelvie said.
"You'd certainly be able to lock people in there, but in my view you couldn't satisfactorily keep a defence base going and run a quarantine system in there."
Manawatū District mayor Helen Worboys held a similar view.
"It doesn't make any sense at all to me. Why would you put our Defence Force at risk? We can't put them at risk, that's why they are where they are. Isolated," Worboys said.
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"There are perfectly good facilities there now with the right security in place. It all comes down to people playing by the rules."
Wilson said there was "no doubt a purpose-built facility would be superior".
"These current hotels have shared lifts, corridors and exercise areas. If it was a purpose-built facility, people would have no contact with anyone. They would be completely self-contained," he said.
"They'd fly into the base directly. There wouldn't be all this difficulty with people being bused around or catching other flights with other air crew which is happening now."
Wilson said that all staff would also live on the base, dramatically lowering the risk of community spread if a staff member was to contract the virus. Isolating the disease to a single spot in the country would be much safer, as well as much cheaper.
"The current system is very sub-par. It's efficient as it gets a lot of people into the country and helps the economy, but my guess is the economic benefit is tiny compared to the billions of dollars the Auckland outbreak has currently involved."
The Government has set aside $479 million to pay for the 32 current managed isolation facilities located in Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington and Christchurch until the end of the year. The report suggests a purpose-built facility would cost "far less" than this.
Despite the initial capital cost involved to build the facility, Wilson said it's an investment in our future.
"Maybe we're a year or more away from a vaccine. But in the long-term, the world sees several influenza pandemics and already this century we've seen Sars, various coronaviruses and now Covid-19."
That concept is being proposed by NZ First, which argues the move would strengthen borders and cost the country "a fraction" of the $500m set aside by the Government to pay for largely hotel-based managed isolation facilities, along with quarantine centres (MIQ).
The Government however has no new plans to set up any facilities at NZ Defence Force camps or bases.